CollegeFootballNews.com 20th Anniversary Top 20 Coaches
Who were the top 20 coaches since CFN started in 1998? No. 16 Steve Spurrier, South Carolina & Florida
CFN Era Top 20 Coaches: No. 16 Steve Spurrier, South Carolina & Florida
CollegeFootballNews.com is turning 20 this season, so we’re looking back on the greatest players, games, coaches and more since we first kicked things off back in 1998.
Wins and losses are certainly a part of it all – okay, a massive part of this – but it’s also about who came up with the biggest coaching performances over the long haul. Consistency matters, championships matter, and personality plays a role, too.
Who are the 20 coaches who defined college football since 1998?
One note, accomplishments before 1998 don’t count, other than when it comes to a coach’s legacy and overall status.
Steve Spurrier, South Carolina (2005-2015), Florida (in CFN Era 1998-2001)
Wait, what? Steve Spurrier is this low on a list of top coaches over the last 20 years?!
Here’s the problem. Spurrier is obviously one of the all-time greatest coaches, but almost everything he accomplished at the highest of levels came before 1998.
The national title? 1996. Five of his six SEC Championships? Before 1998. Over his last three years at Florida he won one SEC title and one other Eastern Division championship, and in just over ten years at South Carolina – as great as he was – he only won one division title.
But even though he didn’t win an SEC championship with the Gamecocks, his era was easily the greatest in South Carolina football history, highlighted by three straight 11-2 seasons from 2011 to 2013.
Remember, winning at South Carolina was hardly a given over its long history, and Spurrier never suffered a losing season until he quit on his 2015 clunker.
Those three Florida seasons? Going 29-9 was great, but also a disappointing considering the 2001 team was national title-good, but blew it as a double-digit underdog against Tennessee – we called the Vols straight up as a 17.5-point underdog, by the way – to blow a shot at the division, SEC, and national championships.
The 1999 and 2000 teams were great, but Spurrier went 1-5 combined after mid-November in both years.
But forget about the negatives. The Ball Coach was still one of the legendary figures in college football over the last 20 years.
Biggest Moment: 2000 SEC Championship
It could also be South Carolina’s 35-21 win over Alabama in 2010. How special was that? It was by far the biggest regular season loss by a Crimson Tide team in the Nick Saban era – Utah in the 2009 Sugar and Oklahoma the 2014 Sugar also beat Bama by 14.
But the brightest moment came to cap off the 2000 season in what would be Spurrier’s final SEC Championship.
The Gators blasted away on Auburn 38-7 in the middle of the season, and they had almost as easy of a time in the rematch.
It wasn’t pretty, though, with the two teams combining for seven turnovers and Auburn managing just two field goals against a stifling Gator defensive performance.
Rex Grossman went to work early with a quick touchdown pass to Reche Caldwell for all the points Florida would need. Grossman threw for 238 yards and four scores, and Earnest Graham ran for 169 yards as the Gators won 28-6.
Steve Spurrier’s Best Season: 2000
Of course, his best season ever was the 1996 national title campaign, but again, that happened before CFN was created.
The 2000 team wasn’t nearly as good as the 2001 version, but again, that one flopped against Tennessee with everything on the line.
In 2000, the Gators might have been blown out by Florida State, and they ended up getting outclassed by Miami, but they got the job done in the SEC.
After starting conference play with a thrilling 27-23 win at Tennessee, and a throw-it-on-the-pile-of-Gator-wins-in-the-series blowout over Kentucky, Mississippi State pulled off a stunner, beating the No. 3 Florida team in a wild 47-35 shootout. The offense threw for almost 500 yards, but the defense got tagged for 23 fourth quarter points in the loss.
The Gators rebounded without a problem, winning five straight to take the SEC East – winning all five with double-digit margin ease – to earn the spot in Atlanta vs. Auburn, easily giving Spurrier his sixth SEC title.
Steve Spurrier’s Worst Season: 2015
The recruiting didn’t fall off the map under Spurrier, but it wasn’t great after it became obvious over his final few seasons that he wouldn’t be a part of the fun for too much longer.
The 2015 team started out well, winning 17-13 over a North Carolina team good enough to play for the ACC title, and then the wheels came off.
The Gamecocks lost to a mediocre Kentucky team, and after beating a UCF team that would finish winless – the last victory of Spurrier’s career – they lost to Missouri and LSU by a combined score of 69-34.
After six games, the Ball Coach decided he was done.
It would be just the second losing season in Spurrier’s career. The other one? His first season as a head man at Duke, going 5-6.
CFN Era Coaching Record: 29-9 in three years at Florida, 86-49 in ten years and six games at South Carolina
College Football Hall of Fame as coach in 2017
2005 and 2010 SEC Coach of the Year
CFN 20th Anniversary lists compiled by Rich Cirminiello, Pete Fiutak, Phil Harrison & Russ Mitchell